This isn’t a post I had intended to write, because up until about a week ago we hadn’t even made these plans yet! But yesterday Chris and I got to do something really cool and fun, and VERY Christmasy, and I figured it would make a perfect addition to the 12 Days of Kaelamas 🙂 on December 16, we did Walt Disney World’s Yuletide Fantasy Tour!
Yuletide Fantasy is a tour that isn’t really talked about a lot, imo. The tour takes you to a few different places, but the selling point for me was that you get to go inside the Holiday Services building – a backstage area where they keep Disney’s holiday decor!! I first heard about Yuletide Fantasy a few years ago but in my research I found that there are very few recent reviews online. I didn’t really have much to go off of, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw my recap into the mix of things 🙂
Even though Chris and I are cast members and going to Disney World is LITERALLY part of our job, we are still huge Disney fans – if you’ll remember we toured the Cinderella Castle Suite a few months ago, we’ve done the Wild Africa Trek, when we were in Disneyland we did a tour (I’ll be writing about it soon hopefully!), and we hope to do Keys to the Kingdom sometime in the future too. So as Christmas-loving Disney fans, we thought the Yuletide Fantasy tour would be a fun way to celebrate our 3 year anniversary ❤
Basic Info & Starting the Tour
The tour is seasonal and only offered around the holidays. It’s 3.5 hours long (ours ran a few minutes over) from 9am-12:30pm, and regular priced it’s $99 a person + tax. There are lot of discounts though – cast members get 35% off, yay! During the tour you’re not allowed to take photos in backstage areas (so there won’t be a ton of photos in this post) but the guides were very clear in letting us know when we were and were not allowed to.
We started our day at Epcot. We were instructed to meet right outside the park entrance. We arrived around 8:50 and saw some very festively-dressed people waving signs that said Yuletide Fantasy and headed over to check in. They gave us name tags and we waited for the tour to begin. There were a lot more people than I expected there – I think we had at least 30 people or so, which is a lot more than any Disney tour I’ve done before!
When everyone was accounted for, we hopped onto a Disney Cruise Line bus…which really made us think all day about how much we want to go on a cruise… maybe next year haha. On our seats were a listening device with an earpiece and a pair of safety goggles. Once our tour guides got everyone situated, we were off!
Stop #1 – World Showcase
We settled onto the bus and the guides introduced themselves to us – we had two really lovely ladies named Jennifer and Jeanna. The bus first took us to a place that we are very familiar with – backstage Epcot! It’s always kind of funny going on these tours as a cast member and seeing things through the eyes of a normal guest. Our tour guides were like “okay how many of you have ever been backstage at Walt Disney World?!!?!” and we just awkwardly raised our hands hahaha. Normally we don’t tell our tour guides that we’re cast members but they usually figure it out anyway – I don’t know if this is because we give off some sort of vibe that gives it away or what but they almost always ask us about it before the tour is over haha
Anyway. The bus took us backstage Epcot to behind the Germany pavilion. Our group was split into two and we entered the park to go deeper into the pavilion. There, our guide told us about some German holiday traditions, like the origin of the Christmas tree and glass-blown ornaments. My family is (extremely) German and actually visited Germany for Christmas when I was younger, so it was cool to hear about some of those traditions that I didn’t know or had forgotten about.
Our next stop was Italy, where we learned about the history of some of the garlands decorating the pavilions and Italy’s version of Santa, called La Befana. I enjoyed this stop because I had no idea Italy celebrated with what is essentially a female Santa….I’m about to start celebrating La Befana every year now instead of St. Nick!!!
Next we moved into the American Adventure, where our guide told us about the history of celebrating Christmas in America. She had some cool vintage ornaments and a piece of an aluminum tree to show us from the 1940s. We also paused for a photo and bathroom break. When our guide was taking our photo, she asked if Chris and I were married haha and I explained that we were just engaged. She made everyone clap for us and got all excited hahahah. I couldn’t resist a gratuitous ring photo also:
From there, we exited backstage to our bus and it was time to head to our next stop!
Stop #2 – Magic Kingdom
Next up we headed over to Magic Kingdom for more festivities. On the way, our guides talked to us about other winter holidays aside from Christmas and I actually learned a few things I didn’t know before. It was nice that they even made the bus rides entertaining and informative!
We entered Magic Kingdom from backstage and our guides split us up again to talk about the Christmas tree on Main Street as well as the Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle. I was shocked to hear that the castle lights are all individually attached to fishnet BY HAND (!!!) and the net is also painted by hand to blend into the castle coloring. It was amazing to learn about how much work goes into decorating our parks each year.
Our guides took us into the side street on Main Street to talk about some more Christmas traditions, like the origin of why we decorate with poinsettias as well as the origin of some classic Christmas stories. We didn’t spend long at MK, but our next stop was by far my favorite, so I didn’t mind too much 🙂
Stop #3 – Holiday Services
This was definitely the most exciting part of our tour. I drive past this Holiday Services building all the time and I constantly wish I could go inside and see all the decorations. We finally got to put our safety glasses to use at this stop! And as much as I was DYING to take photos of everything, unfortunately because it’s a backstage area we weren’t allowed to 😦 But I wouldn’t wanna ruin all the surprises for you anyway!
The holiday building is basically a huge warehouse filled with rows and rows of decorations. The rows reminded me of those huge columns of pallets you see at like, Costco or something. As we walked down the rows, it took me a minute to take it all in. To the left were stacks of boxes with all types of ornaments and decorations, all labeled. The boxes all also had a few of each ornament on the outside for examples too – I saw some labeled “beach” with starfish and sea creature ornaments, “African” was all the animal mask-like ones from the Animal Kingdom trees, “retro” had vintage-y style ornaments. It was cool seeing so many that I recognized (from my resort and others) as well as some that I’d never seen before!
On the other side of the aisle were moving shelves full of all the smaller ornaments. These too were categorized very specifically – I saw one row full of only animal ornaments, one full of Mardi Gras ornaments, some for different Disney characters…it was seriously every Disney Christmas decoration you could imagine! On the back wall there were also just rows and rows of ball ornaments in every color, size and style – literally just a rainbow of ornaments. It was amazing and the organization of it all made my little meticulous heart jump for joy haha
Our guides told us there’s a team of 26 cast members who work there year-round getting ready for all the holidays and fixing things up. We also got to go into the workshop area where some cast members were working on fixing and making even more decorations. It seriously felt like Santa’s workshop haha. We also saw some fall decorations and our guide told us more about how they get the park switched around so quickly from Halloween to Christmas. The holiday building was SO interesting and by far the best part of the tour imo – I absolutely loved being able to see the inside, finally!
After spending some time there, we headed back out to the bus. When we got back on the bus they collected our safety goggles and gave us a little treat to munch on – a snowman rice crispy treat! It was nice because we were getting a little peckish. Before long we were on our way to our final stop.
Stop #4 – Wilderness Lodge
So according to some reviews I read, this tour used to go to the Grand Floridian, so I was surprised that we went to the Lodge. But I wasn’t disappointed! Inside they shared some details and history behind the decorations in the lobby before leading us to the lounge next to Artist Point. There, we were given some delicious hot apple cider to drink while our guides talked to us some more about more nature-y decorations. They passed around some different pinecones and explained how people use them for decor, and then pulled out some mistletoe as well.
If you recall from earlier, the guide had asked me if me and Chris are married or dating…as soon as they pulled out the mistletoe it all made sense and I knew they were going to make us kiss LOL sure enough, the one guide was like “HMMM I wonder if this still works….luckily we have a newly engaged couple to test it out for us!!!” Chris looked at me and laughed and rolled his eyes and everyone looked at us hahahah and of course they brought it over and made us kiss under it. And everyone clapped. It was silly and fun and she thanked us later for being good sports haha
Once we had all finished up with our cider and gotten our fill of photos around the resort, it was time to head back to Epcot to conclude the tour!
Once we got back on the bus, it was a short ride back to Epcot in which our guides talked to us about Santa Claus! They read us a cute story about a girl who wrote to her newspaper asking if Santa was real. It was of course a very cheesy and heartwarming end to the tour and really wrapped things up nicely.
When we got back, as we got off the bus they gave us all a cute little souvenir pin! They said the pin changes every year so I think it’s a cool and unique thing to have. I also like that it does NOT have the year on it because I hate dated merchandise lol
Overall, I think it was a really pleasant tour. I’m not sure if it’s one that has a lot of repeat value, but I did go through it continuously thinking how much my parents would love it, so I may end up doing it again with them someday lol. Most of the places we went were onstage locations that we can visit every day, but I absolutely LOVED going in the holiday warehouse and seeing everything. That part of the tour alone made the price worth it for me.
I think this tour would be great for someone who loves the holidays like I do, or is interested in the history behind the holidays we celebrate. I hope you enjoyed my review of it, and I hope this is helpful if you’re trying to find information about it and coming up short like I was haha. And hopefully I’ll do some more fun things like this in the future that I can write about again 🙂
that’s all for now!